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Monday, August 27, 2007

Into the sunset

It’s been a busy summer for the White House department that handles severance pay. Besides the departures of staffers who have had enough of the administration (or maybe it’s the other way around), there was the long goodbye of Karl Rove from his post as senior adviser and deputy turd blossom.

Now, just days before Rove heads back to Texas to pursue some lucrative enterprise or another (let's watch how fast he shows up on Fox), there’s news of another Bush White House figure set to leave Washington, and not a moment too soon for the folks on the Hill. Alberto Gonzalez, the U.S. attorney general, today announced his resignation effective September 17.

‘Celebration’ may be too mild a word to express the feelings of Democrats on Capitol Hill. It’s not hard to imagine the congressional leadership dancing a conga line around their offices. Sen. Charles Schumer, circumspect as usual in a press conference, was understated in his view of Gonzalez’s departure from a Justice Department that he said was, from a standpoint of public confidence, a federal agency "worse than FEMA." Imagine that.

With his announcement, Hurricane Alberto has been officially downgraded to a political depression, spinning out the last of his furious winds en route to his homestead in Texas. What’s left for the administration is to pick up the pieces and rebuild, trying to rebound from this latest exit from a White House in deep existential crisis.

Now comes the confirmation dance between the White House and those in Congress, especially the Democratic leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will direct the confirmation hearings. Finding a consensus with its political opposites, a process that the administration has long and largely rejected, is the first challenge.

The work for the Justice Department itself is more daunting. It's left to them to undo the damage done by draconian policies affecting everything from the rationale for mistreatment of prisoners in the Iraq war to the criminalization of ordinary people looking for better lives, the undocumented human beings you see every day in the parking lots of Lowe's and Home Depot stores, desperately seeking nothing more criminal than an honest day's wage.

It falls to the Justice Department to restore a belief, not so widespread anymore, that justice is possible from the agency with its name on the door.

Ciao, Alberto. It's been real. Don't let the Constitution hit you in the ass on the way out.

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